Unforgotten season 5: Cold case drama set to return in 2023 as Sinéad Keenan joins the cast and the team head for Paris

Sanjeev Bhaskar's DI Sunny Khan has a new boss to help him solve a decades-old murder case - DCI Jessica James, played by BAFTA-nominated actress Sinéad Keenan.

By Alex Fletcher Updated: 17 June 2022 - 11.09am
Mainstreet Pictures Sanjeev Bhaskar and Sinéad Keenan

*Warning season 4 spoilers ahead*

Unforgotten season 4 broke records in 2021 with over 7.5 million viewers tuning in every week for the latest developments in the cold case drama.

After the gripping season 4 finale left viewers weeping the demise of Nicola Walker’s Cassie Stuart, fans feared writer Chris Lang might have drawn the series to a close.

Thankfully that isn’t the case and Unforgotten will be back for a fifth season early in 2023 - with a new detective in charge of the Bishop Street unsolved crime team and the series' most far-flung destination to date.

Here is everything you need to know about Unforgotten season 5, including the identity of Sanjeev Bhaskar's new co-star and when we can expect to see it on our screens.

When will Unforgotten season 5 be on ITV?

What are the locations for Unforgotten season 5?

Who's joining the cast for Unforgotten season 5?

 

Who will replace Cassie Stuart?

Sinead Keenan Getty Images

When ITV announced that seres 5 would bring a new ‘Partner in Crime’ for DI Sunny Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar), it was thought that one of the series regulars such as Fran Lingley (Carolina Main), Murray Boulting (Jordan Long) or Jake Collier (Lewis Reeves) could be in line for a promotion. 

However, in an interview with PBS Masterpiece, the channel which airs Unforgotten and other British dramas in the US, Lang confirmed that Sunny's colleague would not only be a new face but that she will, like Cassie, be Sunny's boss, a DCI who will shake up the dynamic of the team as she forms a new partnership with Sunny.

"It obviously introduces a new partner in crime for [Sunny], which is just lovely and refreshing," said Lang.

"It’s a woman, and she’s pretty different from Cassie, that’s kind of all I can say. She’s at a very different stage in her life. She’s younger. She’s his boss again."

ITV has now revealed that the new character will be DCI Jessica James, played by BAFTA-nominated actress Sinéad Keenan. Lang confirmed the news on Twitter as filming began on 14 March.

"I have long been an admirer of Chris Lang’s work so I am absolutely delighted to be joining the Unforgotten team," Keenan said in a statement.

"I’m very much looking forward to working with the extraordinary cast led by the brilliant and incredibly lovely Sanjeev Bhaskar. And I’m hoping that if I play my cards right I might even get to take a peek in Sunny’s backpack!"

Lang welcomed the Dublin-born Keenan to the Unforgotten family.

"And so it begins, a new Unforgotten journey - and it’s scary, for Sunny and the Bishop Street team, for the audience, for all of us," he said.

"But it’s also very, very, exciting, and I cannot wait for you to meet DCI Jessica ‘Jessie’ James, played by the always brilliant, Sinéad Keenan.”

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Who is Sinéad Keenan?

Sinéad Keenan in Three Families BBC

Sinéad Keenan will join the cast of Unforgotten in series 5 as DCI Jessica James. Dublin-born actress Keenan rose to fame in her native Ireland as Cillian Murphy's character's girlfriend in the film Sunburn and then as Farrah Phelan in Irish soap Fair City.

Keenan's first major role on UK TV was as Kelly Hawkins in ITV's 2008 comedy-drama Moving Wallpaper, before she joined the cast of supernatural drama Being Human as werewolf Nina in 2009, the same year in which she appeared in David Tennant's final two Dr Who episodes.

in 2017, Keenan was nominated for a BAFTA for her portrayal of Melanie Jones, mother of murdered Livepool 11-year-old Rhys Jones in Little Boy Blue, and has since appeared as Roz alongside Anna Friel in ITV thriller Deep Water and starred as Theresa (above) in acclaimed BBC One drama Three Families in 2021.

What's the plot of Unforgotten season 5?

In an interview with Radio Times, Bhaskar revealed that there wasn't much of a time shift between seasons 4 and 5.

“The story will pick up not long after the end of the last story," he said. "So there is a connection to that story."

ITV has revealed a plot outline for the series which sees DCI James and DI Khan thrown straight into a murder investigation which could be almost 100 years old.

"The new series opens with the clock ticking down to DCI James’s first day in her new job with an unforeseen and devastating introduction to her family life," reads the ITV summary.

"Determined to make a good first impression with her new colleagues, will Jess be in the right frame of mind to deliver and inspire the team?

"And inevitably how will the ghost of much-loved former colleague Cassie Stuart haunt her?  After all, Cassie will be big shoes for her to fill.  Does she have the resolve, professionalism and spirit to live up to her much-admired and respected predecessor?  

"Jess’s first case is the discovery of human remains in a newly renovated period property in Hammersmith, London. But how long have they been there and is this a murder dating back to the 1930’s or has the body been disposed of in more recent times?

Writer Chris Lang has hinted that we will see more of Sunny's private life as he and the team cope with the loss of Cassie.

In particular, we may learn more about Sunny's girlfriend Sal (Michelle Bonnard), who the detective proposed to in the final episode of season 4.

"Yeah, we’re going to find a lot more out about her," Lang told PBS Masterpiece.

"There’s a story there definitely, and I certainly intended to do this anyway, but it’s interesting how much the audience responds to the personal stuff of your two protagonists.

"I think audiences love that stuff, and I love writing it, and I’ve tried to find more room in this season for the personal lives of our two protagonists, and certainly his new partner. There’s a big personal story."

Lang also suggests that we may yet see more of Cassie's family and how her father's continuing struggle with dementia pans out. 

"There’s part of me that I don’t want to let them go, and I think there’s organic ways where they could be present. But the difficulty of this show is that every single episode, there’s always way more stuff I want to put in than I have space for…"

What's the release date of Unforgotten season 5 on ITV?

Filming on season 5 began in March 2022 and finished in June, writer Chris Lang marking the end of filming by posting a tweet from one of the series' Paris locations. 

His message - which read "see you all on the other side of post production in January" - also indicated that we wouldn't be seeing the fruits of his labour and meeting DCI Jessica James until early 2023. 

What are the filming locations for Unforgotten season 5?

Previous series of Unforgotten have seen Cassie and Sunny criss-cross the UK in order to solve their cold cases, either to meet the victims' families or to catch up with suspects who have long since made their lives away from London. Season 4, for instance, saw the pair visit Cambridge, the Peak District and Kent in pursuit of clues, and earlier seasons were set in Liverpool, Brighton, the New Forest, Bristol and Norfolk. 

Unforgotten season 5 breaks new ground as the Bishop Street team - or at least Sunny - leave the UK for the streets of Paris. On 13 June Lang tweeted a photo at one of the French capital's iconic Metro stations. 

Closer to home, season 5 was also filmed in Bath, Tilbury in Essex and as ever in London itself.

Unforgotten season 5 cast

  • Sanjeev Bhaskar - Plays DI Sunny Khan
  • Sinéad Keenan - Plays DCI Jessica 'Jessie' James
  • Rhys Yates - Plays Jay
  • Martina Laird - Plays Bele
  • Ian McElhinney - Plays Tony
  • Max Rinehart - Plays Karol
  • Hayley Mills - Plays Emma
  • Jordan Long - Plays DS Murray Boulting
  • Lewis Reeves - Plays DC Jake Collier
  • Carolina Main - Plays DS Fran Lingley
  • Georgia Mackenzie - Plays Dr Leanne Balcolmbe
  • Pippa Nixon - Plays DC Karen Willetts
  • Michelle Bonnard - Plays Sal

Alongside Sanjeev Bhaskar as DI Sunny Khan and Sinéad Keenan as DCI Jessica 'Jessie' James, the guest stars for Unforgotten season 5 have been revealed.

They are Rhys Yates (The Outlaws, Silent Witness) as Jay, Martina Laird (Summerland, The Bay) as Bele, Ian McElhinney (Game of Thrones, Derry Girls) as Tony and Max Rinehart (Jekyll and Hyde, Miss You Already) as Karol. Veteran actress Hayley Mills will play Tony’s wife, Emma.

As ever, their characters are seemingly unconnected until Khan and James identify the victim and begin to investigate the truth behind the murder.

The cast for the first four seasons were lead by Nicola Walker (Last Tango in Halifax, The Split) as DCI Cassie Stuart, alongside Bhaskar (Yesterday, Goodness Gracious Me).

Other regular characters included Peter Egan (Downton Abbey), Alastair Mackenzie (Deep Water), Carolina Main (Blood), Lewis Reeves (Uncle) and Jordan Long (Prime Suspect 1973).

The format of the show means that it can get in new guest stars as the suspects in every series.

Season 4's guests included Sheila Hancock, Susan Lynch, Phaldut Sharma, Liz White and Andy Nyman.

Previous series have included Tom Courtenay, Trevor Eve, Mark Bonnar, Neil Morrissey, James Fleet and Kevin McNally.

What happened in season 4?
*Warning: spoilers ahead*

Andy Nyman as Dean Barton in Unforgotten ITV

Season four saw Cassie and Sunny solving the murder of Matthew Walsh, whose body was found headless and handless in a freezer 30 years after his death.

His death was eventually linked to four trainee coppers from 1990: Fiona Grayson, Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Baildon, Dean Barton, and Ram Sidhu.

The season finale revealed that it was Dean Barton (Andy Nyman) who had killed Matthew Walsh in a revenge attack for the death of his brother.

But that wasn’t the only shock in the last episode as Cassie, with retirement on the horizon, was killed off following her traffic accident at the end of the penultimate episode.

Watch seasons 1-4 of Unforgotten on BritBox.